Our 11th Time Around, the Best HPMA Ceremony Yet

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Tuesday was my eleventh foray to the Houston Press Music Awards, and it was certainly my favorite ever -- excepting maybe the time Molly of Molly and Ringwalds called me out from the stage to insist that her band was "not lame."

What made Tuesday night so special? Well, it started like this: I was hanging out with the bass player in my son's band at Mojeaux's across the street from Warehouse Live, where the awards were held. We'd gotten our heads about right, we decided, so at 7:15 p.m. we headed over to the venue.

As I crossed the street in 90-plus degree heat, I noticed a woman with a cane getting out of her car. I zagged back across the street just as she shut her car door. It was Hall of Fame honoree Jewel Brown, longtime singer for Louis "Satchmo" Armstrong's touring band.


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"Miss Brown, do you need an arm?" I asked and stuck out my right elbow. She linked her left arm in mine.

"Oh, my, yes. A lady can always use a big strong arm," she said with that little twinkle of mischief she always seems to have in her eye.

We got about half way to the Warehouse door and I said, "You know, it kinda hurts my feelings that you've already forgotten me."

She asked how I knew her. I related that we'd met at the Continental Club at her show in 2012 and that I had helped her up the stage steps that day. I told her I had interviewed her by phone for a long piece in the Press.

"Sonny," she said, "A lotta water runs under this old bridge." And she laughed. So did I.

At the checkpoint, we were being fitted with wristbands when I heard a voice behind me I thought I recognized. I turned and sure enough, it was Joe Sample, the legendary 75-year old pianist for the Crusaders, and his lovely wife Yolanda. He was being inducted into the Hall of Fame also. For Jewel and Joe, it was old home week as they both grinned broadly and hugged.

Not knowing what to expect inside, we entered the noisy foyer only to see music editor Chris Gray. He looked at me like, "What they hell are you doing and where did you get this entourage?" [It was relief to see all three of them, honestly -- ed.]

Introductions were made, and I proceeded to take Ms. Brown and Sample to their reserved seats in the front of the room. My inner voice kept saying, "Holy cow, you're escorting Jewel Brown!"

Once seated, we all had a nice chat and I moved back to the rear of the room to hang with Gray when a small entourage came in, led by an elderly man in a dude hat wearing a peach colored summer suit. I thought I'd faint. I walked over to shake hands. It was Grady Gaines, Little Richard's original sax player. Gaines had also led the great Sam Cooke's band at one time.

Gaines was accompanied by a tall dapper distinguished looking man dressed in black suit. It was Gaines' drummer, Reggie Yarborough, maybe the finest drum pounder in Houston history. No one seemed to recognize either man. Seats were found.

After that it's all a blur. The guys in Los Skarnales all cornered me in the back and Nestor "El Tiburon" Aguilar convinced them all that they should nickname me "The Godfather." The guys from Grand Old Grizzly were hanging back there as well.

In the interim, we ran into the Born Again Virgins folks, some of the Zydeco Dots, Jordan "Chili Sauce" Donald, probably the hottest young sax player in town, the nattily attired Quinn Bishop of Cactus Music, rising blues diva Annika Chambers, bon vivant and photographer extraordinaire Marco Torres, and rap sensation Fat Tony.

Anyway, I may not agree with all of the winners (oh, hell no), and I may not agree that all of the performances were particularly inspired, but for star power, history, and just a good vibe of local-scene camaraderie, this will probably be my favorite Houston Press Music Awards event ever.

But let's see what happens next year.


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